Blake Barnett was one of the top 2015 recruits in the country, so naturally it made sense that he ended up signing with Alabama. The Crimson Tide program is a five-star prospect’s dream — an almost sure chance to contend for a national championship and a guaranteed chance to receive looks from NFL scouts.
The only problem with Alabama from the perspective of a top recruit is that other top recruits feel the same way. That’s why so many four and sometimes even five-star players end up transferring out of Tuscaloosa after a season or two, generally after they realize that playing time isn’t a possibility or the depth chart is just too loaded at their position.
That was the case with Barnett, who came in as a highly touted quarterback and even started Alabama’s first game of the 2016 season after redshirting in 2015.
He ended up playing in three games for the Crimson Tide, throwing for 219 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Unfortunately for Barnett, true freshman Jalen Hurts also got playing time and he eventually stood out in the “two-quarterback system” that Saban was halfheartedly toying around with.
At that point, the writing was on the wall for Barnett. He could stick around as a backup, be ready whenever called upon and maybe get a shot at starting in a few years if Hurts decided to head off to the NFL early. Or, he could switch positions. However, 6-foot-4 quarterbacks generally get jammed into a tight end role, a spot where Alabama is also predictably very deep.
So Barnett decided to transfer, which was really the smartest move he could have made if he’s looking to make a quick impact in college football. This is despite what Saban had to say regarding college football’s transfer situation.
Transferring in college football, especially as a younger player with a ton of eligibility left or a grad transfer, has really become like free agency in professional sports. Granted, players have to either go down to the JUCO level or sit out a season at their new school, but usually — outside of transfer restrictions — players basically get to go through the recruiting process again as a transfer.
In Barnett’s case, he has decided to go to JUCO route, according to reports from 247Sports. Steve Wiltfong of 247 reported on Tuesday that Barnett had decided to enroll at Palomar Junior College in San Marcos, Calif., and he’ll be a student there in the spring semester before transferring back to a FBS school to be eligible for most of the 2017 season.
The advantage for Barnett? Because he decided to go the JUCO route, he can actually transfer anywhere in the FBS, including back to the SEC, and Alabama can have no say in it. Wiltfong calls it a 4-2-4 transfer (four-year college to a JUCO back to a four-year college) and it’s important to point out because Barnett will be deemed eligible to play DI football in 2017, a year from the date of his transfer — as long as he meets some GPA criteria, which you can read about here from Barton Simmons of 247.
Basically, what it means for Barnett is that he can take the next year to focus on grades as well as preparation, join a DI football team and be eligible to compete basically by the time the in-conference season rolls around. If he joins the right team with a good situation, he could be a starting quarterback again by this time next year.
It’s a nifty loophole that Barnett is exploiting, but it also means that he’s again the top dog when it comes to courting a scholarship from interested schools.
He’s a former five-star who won the starting job at Alabama. And yes, he lost said starting job, but it was not necessarily an indictment on him and more so a statement on how explosive Hurts is. Also, the fact that he did win the gig in the first place points to the immense talent and potential that he possesses.
Wiltfong reports that Texas A&M has already personally talked with Barnett — the Aggies know a thing or two about relying on transfers at quarterback — and other interested programs include Oregon, UCLA, Washington, Cal, Michigan State, Miami and Florida.
“I could see him narrowing it down fairly quickly and trying to make a decision by Christmas time,” Barnett’s high school coach Jeff Steinberg told Wiltfong.
Remember, as a high school recruit Barnett just had 12 offers, but some of the top programs in the nation were after his commitment. Obviously Alabama had offered, but so did Notre Dame, Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Duke, Jacksonville State, Michigan, Ole Miss, Oregon, UCLA and West Virginia.
Barnett is basically a recruit again, but now he’s just adding the JUCO tag in front of his name. He’ll likely be a five-star JUCO recruit and as schools start determining the future of their quarterback positions, don’t be surprised if Barnett once again becomes a big-time name on the recruiting trail.
In the 2015 cycle, he was the No. 2 pro-style quarterback and No. 21 overall player in America.
Buckle up, because he’s back on the market.